Merchants of Security

Private Security Companies, Strategy and the Quest for Power

Authored by: Marcus Mohlin

The Routledge Research Companion to Security Outsourcing in the Twenty-first Century

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472426833
eBook ISBN: 9781315613376
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042228


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Contemporary research on companies offering services similar to those of state military and police have come to be focused mainly on the issue of armed security guards and so-called private security companies (PSCs). For a while research also dealt with true mercenary outfits such as Executive Outcomes who dealt with armed combat in an organised fashion (Rubin, 1997; Cilliers and Mason, 1999; Musah and Fayemi, 2000), much like any state military would. It is of course not surprising that academics and journalists took a huge interest in private corporations who decided to make business out of a gun barrel. Such a development seemed to contradict everything we knew and thought about the division between the state and the private sector. If earlier research had suggested that the state came into being when the use of violence was removed from the private and monopolised by governments (Tilly, 1990), would not private companies using armed violence signal the demise of the state as we knew it? Many suggested it did and, of course, we should all be wary when private citizens and large corporations acquire weapons and especially if and when they start making business with weapons (Drohan, 2003; Briody, 2004; Rasor and Bauman, 2007; Klein, 2007; Freeman and Minow, 2009). However, only a small fraction of the privatised military industry, as Singer called it (2003), was, and is, actually concerned with armed guards (Mohlin, 2012: 45–47).

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